First-hand port experience for our ship simulation graduates

Last month, three of our graduate engineers spent a day with the Harwich Haven Authority (HHA) at the Port of Felixstowe, as part of their training. The visit saw them visit the port areas and experience real ship pilotage and tug operations first hand. This was made possible by the HHA, a long-standing client of HR Wallingford, and the tug operators, Svitzer. Jess Wattle reflects on the day.

Three graduates with life safety jackets on boats on Port of Felixstowe.

As a graduate engineer who specialises in ship navigation simulation work, one of the highlights of my training is being able to experience real operations. The day at Harwich and Felixstowe, with my colleagues Thomas Clarke and Henry Cruickshank, was no exception.

It started with a safety briefing, with HHA providing all of the necessary PPE, before we travelled by pilot boat to board the Evergreen ship, the Ever Art, which was arriving at Felixstowe for the first time. It is 400m long, has a 62m beam (width) and is one of the largest container ships in the world.

To get on board, in the open sea, we had to step from the pilot boat onto a rope ladder that was dangling down the side of ship, and climb up about 5m to an access door – not a task for the faint-hearted!

Once safely onboard, we were able to observe the pilot and crew navigating the ship along the channel and swinging with tug assistance, to come alongside the berth.  This is a manoeuvre often simulated in HR Wallingford’s UK Ship Simulation Centre as part of Continual Professional Development (CPD) training sessions for HHA pilots and tug masters.

Once the ship was moored we were given a tour of the quayside, learning the complicated logistics of how containers are handled within the port, along with making sure each container is loaded and unloaded in the correct order. It was interesting to see how autonomy was being adopted within the port, making efficiency a top priority.

view of blue cranes in port being approached by a container ship
Tugs assisting with the berthing manoeuvre of the Ever Art

Next, courtesy of the tug operators Svitzer, we went on a trip on a tug boat assisting another ship departing the port. We saw first-hand how the tugs are operated effectively to help manoeuvre very large ships.

The trip was amazing and gave us a real insight into the whole operation of the port. We also gained an understanding of how the work at HR Wallingford directly relates to the manoeuvres conducted at the port. For me, the highlight of the day was the tug trip, which will certainly improve my understanding and handling of the computer controlled tugs in the simulators.

I feel very lucky that HR Wallingford has a collaborative agreement with HHA, the navigation authority for the Harwich Haven, which includes ports of Felixstowe and Harwich amongst others. HR Wallingford has worked with HHA for many years, including training their personnel and working on a range of development projects.

My colleagues and I would like to extend our thanks to the teams at HHA and Svitzer, who showed us around and answered our many questions. Particular thanks go to Capt Prithvi Singh, the acting Harbour Master, who helped organise the trip, and Capt. Ian Love, the HHA pilot who also helped organise the trip and who we shadowed for the day.

View of boats moored at port in sunset
A beautiful Harwich sunset to finish off a perfect day

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